The future of Metro’s security cameras


(Ben Claassen III/For Express)

As soon as I sat down on a Green Line train last weekend, two things caught my eye. The first wasn’t such an unexpected Metro sighting — just some freaky dude tapping his toes wildly at the other end of the car. What really caught my attention was the security camera affixed to the ceiling. “Thanks for keeping tabs on Mr. Tap Dancer for me,” I thought. “You new around here?”

When I posed the same question the next day to Metro spokesman Dan Stessel, I learned the answer was no. A few years ago, some cameras were installed on trains during a pilot program that was never advanced. “The number of cars that have them is in the single digits,” he explained. (And it’s unclear whether the handful of cameras riding the rails today are operational.)

But security cameras are important crime-fighting tools for Metro, he added, pointing to the fact that stations now have ones that record in HD quality. And those forthcoming 7000 series cars — a few of which were spotted on Wednesday taking a test drive through the system — will all have multiple cameras on board. By 2018, when those cars account for half of Metro’s fleet, there will be a lot more footage of what’s happening on trains.

There’s obviously a big safety impetus behind this. When Metro can capture images of fights and phone snatches and other criminal behavior, it’ll hopefully be easier to catch the perpetrators involved. And other riders won’t feel as compelled to record it themselves, which is good news for anyone who read popville.com this week. (Just look for the post about the Red Line masturbator. Or better yet, don’t.)

Here’s my suggestion of another way to leverage this technology: Shame the snackers. Readers frequently tell me that despite the rules against eating on the Metro, it’s looking more like a moveable feast every day. Of course, I see it too — also on that Green Line train this weekend was a young woman brazenly sucking on a lollipop.

Metro should give the worst offenders the montage treatment, and splice together videos like that one released a few months ago showing drunken platform blunders. Maybe no one worries about getting fined, but the fear of going viral might scare them into dropping the burrito.

 

Read previous columns:

The Alexandria Spokeswomen lean — and bike — in

The road worrier: How I’m getting over my fear of driving

Ben Ross’ ‘Dead End’ chronicles the fall of suburban sprawl

 

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.

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Lea Radick · May 9, 2014